Need an odd job done around your house or condo? Oxford’s newest student-run business can help.
Rent-A-Reb, which opened in August, is the entrepreneurial idea of University of Mississippi sophomore Haleigh Hurt. The business caters to Oxford residents and Rebel fans traveling to Oxford.
Rent-A-Reb hires UM students to do odd jobs. From babysitting, yard work, and house cleaning, to lifeguarding and dog walking, Rent-A-Reb will find someone to get your job done.
Hurt conceived the idea for Rent-A-Reb while talking with her family. “In my hometown, there is always a need for babysitters, gardeners, and other people to do odd jobs for people who work or are just really busy,” she said. “My family and I decided that was probably the case in Oxford as well, and that’s really how the whole idea started.”
Hurt, an integrated marketing communications major, always preferred working on her own schedule instead of 9 to 5. Immediately, she began thinking of ideas about how to get the business rolling and decided it would be great to hire UM students.
She sought help from family and members of her hometown community of Halls, Tennessee. Hall’s aunt helped her think of the name Rent-A-Reb.
“I had to get a business license through the Mississippi Secretary of State,” she said. “I then had to come up with a business plan on how to pay my employees and how all of the logistics were going to work. I also had to create flyers and business cards so that I could get Rent-A-Reb’s name out to the public.”
While creating the business was tough, Hurt said finding trustworthy, loyal employees was the most difficult challenge. She sought guidance about how to interview people and discern if they were trustworthy. She also had to learn how to graciously turn applicants down if they weren’t right for the position.
Because the business is new, only a few Rent-A-Rebs services have been utilized. For now, Hurt mainly hires students to clean houses and babysit for Rebel fans during football games. As a result, she has built a steady clientele and hopes to hear from new clients very soon as word spreads about the business.
“The business is really starting to pay off,” said Hurt. “I invested a lot of my own savings into Rent-A-Reb, and when it first started, clients weren’t really willing to trust me. But after meeting them in person and giving them as good of an experience as I possibly could, the clientele has really started to pick up.”
AJ Davidson, a friend and employee of Hurt, enjoys working for Rent-A-Reb and believes the business has a bright future.
“My favorite part of Rent-A-Reb is being a part of a business that has the potential to be so successful,” Davidson said. “I clean houses, walk dogs, and am starting advertising for landscaping. I really enjoy hearing all of the positive feedback that Haleigh receives from clients that have worked with us.”
Hurt worked tirelessly all summer and the beginning of the school year to launch the business. She consulted with other business owners, opened a bank account to pay employees, advertised, and used a lot of her free time to get the business up and running.
“So far, I have been really paying my dues,” said Hurt. “I sometimes clean four houses a week, and I am constantly talking with clients about what they liked and didn’t like about the services that I have provided. I also put a lot of my own money into the business, but I know that it is going to all pay off down the road.”
Throughout the process, Hurt remains open to criticism and welcomes advice. She listens to feedback from customers and allows them to offer insight on how she can better her business. In fact, one client even helped Hurt fix her pricing and gave advice on what she thought Rent-A-Reb employees should be paid.
“My first client was Jenny McWilliams, a family friend from my hometown,” said Hurt. “Rent-A-Reb cleaned her house. I originally had the employees being paid by the hour, but Jenny gave me advice on how much I should charge, and that it would be better to have the clients pay at a flat rate.”
As for the future of Rent-A-Reb, Hurt and Davidson are both excited about what happens next.
“I really want Rent-A-Reb to take off in Oxford, and if it does I would love to franchise it,” said Hurt. “I don’t want it to just be at Ole Miss. I want residents in college towns all over the SEC to be able to Rent-A-Vol, Rent-A-Dawg, or Rent-A-Tiger.”
Davidson is optimistic about the new venture. “If [Hurt] consistently can be humbled and stay attentive to advice and feedback from those below and above her, the company will reach heights that she will have never imagined,” Davidson said.
If you would like to rent a Rebel, you can call Haleigh Hurt at (731) 413-7577 or email email@example.com.
“I went into this process with the mindset that failure was nonexistent,” Hurt said. “If something didn’t work I was just going to have to try it a different way.”